Rallying cry: Hezbollah supporters gather around mock coffins representing those who died on the Mavi Marmara, Photo by AP
4:58AM Sunday Jun 06, 2010
ROBERT BOOTH, LONDON
June 6, 2010
AUTOPSY results on the bodies of those killed during the assault on the Gaza aid flotilla reveal they were peppered with 9 millimetre bullets, many fired at close range and into victims’ backs.
Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine.
The results, carried out for the Turkish Ministry of Justice, have put further pressure on Israel to allow an independent inquiry into the raid.
The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, also a US citizen, was shot five times from less than 45 centimetres away, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot in the back of the head or in the back.
The findings emerged as more survivors gave accounts of the raids. Ismail Patel, chairman of British-based pro-Palestinian group Friends of Al Aqsa, told how he saw some of the fatal shootings and claimed Israel had operated a ”shoot to kill policy”.
He calculated that during the bloodiest part of the assault, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. One man was fatally shot in the back of the head about half-a-metre in front him and another was shot once between the eyes. He added that as well as the fatally wounded, 48 others were suffering from gunshot wounds and six activists remained missing, suggesting the death toll may increase.
The new information about the manner and intensity of the killings undermines Israel’s insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self-defence and in response to attacks.
”Given the very disturbing evidence which contradicts the line from the Israeli media and suggests that Israelis have been very selective in the way they have addressed this, there is now an overwhelming need for an international inquiry,” said British MP Andrew Slaughter, a member of Parliament’s all-party group on Britain and Palestine.
Israel said the number of bullets found in the bodies did not alter the fact that the soldiers were acting in self-defence.
”The only situation when a soldier shot was when it was a clearly a life-threatening situation,” said a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London.
”Pulling the trigger quickly can result in a few bullets being in the same body, but does not change the fact they were in a life-threatening situation.”
Last week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government would call for an inquiry under international auspices if Israel refused to establish an independent inquiry.
The autopsy results were released as the last of the Turkish victims was buried.
Dr Haluk Ince, chairman of the Council of Forensic Medicine in Istanbul, said that in only one case was there a single bullet wound, to the forehead from a distant shot, while every other victim suffered multiple wounds.
An unnamed Israeli commando, who purportedly led the raid on the Mavi Marmara, told Israeli news website Ynet News that he shot at a protester who approached him with a knife.
”I was in front of a number of people with knives and clubs,” he said. ”I cocked my weapon when I saw that one was coming towards me with a knife drawn and I fired once. Then another 20 people came at me from all directions and threw me down to the deck below.
”We knew they were peace activists. Though they wanted to break the Gaza blockade, we thought we’d encounter passive resistance … we didn’t expect this. Everyone wanted to kill us.”